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YouTube RealTime: Online video gets more social?

Google plans to begin testing a service Wednesday that lets people see what they're friends are doing on YouTube, as they do it.

Updated 7:02 p.m. PDT: all my invitations are accounted for.

Google plans to begin testing on Wednesday night a new feature called YouTube RealTime that lets you and your friends share in the moment what you're doing with the site.

"This is building on the success of the YouTube friend activity feed, letting people see what their friends are watching, rating, commenting on, etc.," Google said about the feature, which the company plans to start offering to invitees tonight.

I have 25 invitations I'll be handing out had 25 invitations for when the service goes live later tonight--first come, first served. And just as with the Gmail launch five years ago, those folks will get 25 invitations of their own, so Google evidently is hoping for some viral marketing action.

Watching YouTube video, unlike regular TV, often is a solitary experience with one person and one computer. However, finding out about videos such as Japanese beatbox phenom Daichi's performance is very much a social phenomenon as URLs spread over e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, and instant messaging.

With RealTime, though, YouTube is essentially trying to combine those two aspects of the YouTube experience into one, creating more of a virtual equivalent of the couch in front of the TV. I haven't yet tried it out, but conceptually it reminds me of how Photophlow enlivens Flickr.

It's an opt-in service, so people can invite others to be their friends, and friends can accept or deny the request as they see fit.